Accessibility links

Breaking News

Greenpeace Says 'All But One' Of Its Non-Russian 'Arctic 30' Have Left Russia

Twenty-six members of what Greenpeace came to dub its "Arctic 30," including 24 Greenpeace International activists and two freelance journalists -- in an undated photo in St. Petersburg
Greenpeace has announced that "all but one of the 26 non-Russian members" of the activists and crew detained by Russian forces more than three months ago have "left Russia heading home."

Some of the first group of environmental activists to have gotten exit visas after the charges over a September protest against oil drilling in the Arctic have already returned home to the United Kingdom.

Russia completed the process of formally dropping criminal charges against the 30 people, which come from Russia and 15 other countries and were taken when the Greenpeace's "Arctic Sunrise" vessel was seized, on December 26.

The last of the exit visas came a day later.

Greenpeace International, noting on its Facebok page that it had been 100 days since the "Arctic Sunrise" raid, did not say which non-Russian remained in the country.

Authorities had threatened "piracy" charges initially but later signaled their intention to charge what Greenpeace dubbed its "Arctic 30" with the lesser but still serious charge of "hooliganism."

They were all held for months before being released on bail and prevented from leaving the country.

"We’re celebrating, but I want to say that this should never have happened," British activist Phil Ball said before his retun home on December 27, according to a Greenpeace statement. "One hundred days ago today we were seized in international waters by armed commandos. We faced ridiculous charges, piracy then hooliganism, and spent two months in jail for a crime we didn't commit. We were guilty of nothing more than having a conscience. We sailed north to peacefully protest against a reckless new industry, because sometimes taking a stand is the only thing you can do. That's what I feel about Arctic oil drilling, and while I'm now free, we haven’t won the campaign to save the Arctic. We're closer now, but there's a still long way to go."

The activists and colleagues were detained after security forces in September raided and seized the vessel, a Greenpeace icebreaker carrying activists who had scaled a Gazprom offshore oil rig in the Pechora Sea to protest oil drilling above the "ice line."

The detainees non-Russian detainees were from Brazil, Canada, Italy, Argentina, Poland, New Zealand, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Finland, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

Greenpeace and others have fought to severely limit drilling for oil in the sensitive Arctic region, where Russian petrochemical giant Gazprom announced earlier this month it had successfully begun to produce oil commercially from the drilling platform in the "Prirazlomnaya" oil field that was the target of the Greenpeace protest.

A Russian amnesty decree adopted last week helped clear the way for the Greenpeace releases.

The environmental group has said its protest action that prompted the Russian seizure and detentions was successful at drawing attention to the cause of defending the Arctic from oil extraction and other dangerous activities.

"I've never regretted what we did, not once, not in prison and definitely not now," one of the "Arctic Sunrise" activists, Swede Dima Litvinov, said before crossing the Russian border late on December 26, according to Greenpeace. "Sometimes you just have to stand up and ask to be counted, and that’s what we did in the Arctic."
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.